I was 10 years old when I saw this amazing Order of the Phoenix book display outside of WHSmiths. I’d been waiting for almost a year for it to be released and begged my Mum to get off the bus home so that she could buy it for me… and she did!
If you know me, then you know that I LOVE Harry Potter and have read the series many times. However, out of the seven books, i’ve always found Order of the Phoenix a challenge to get through – as a ten-year old, I wrote it off as being the least magical and it being too focused on themes that I was too young to understand or appreciate. i.e. grief, politics, discrimination, death etc. As a teenager, I continued to find Order of the Phoenix hard to enjoy and ended up either skim reading most of it or just not finishing it at all. *hides face* As an adult learning that other Potter fans considered this book their favourite surprised me and has for a while now, made me want to give this book another read.
This is going to be a slightly different review because it’s one of the rarest times, that i’ve reread a book. (The Harry Potter series is literally the only exception). So i’ve decided to split this review into things that stood out to me, things that i liked and things that I didn’t like.
So, what do I think of Order of the Phoenix exactly 15 years on the day of its release?
WHAT STOOD OUT TO ME
1. The introduction of so many new and familiar characters:
The, who knew she was a part of the wizarding world, Mrs Arabella Figg, Don’t call me Nymphadora Tonks, The real Alastor ‘Mad Eye’ Moody, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Luna Lovegood, Kreacher, Mundungus Fletcher, Grawp, Professor what’s her face Umbridge, Bellatrix Lestrange and – i’m even going to include Ginny because her personality really shines in this book.
2. The ‘surreptitious’ and ‘indignant’ writing:
Reading this now I can see how the writing might have put me off, I couldn’t tell you what surreptitiously or indignantly meant during the ages I read and tried to read this book, thankfully due to modern technology, I now have Google at the tap of a button.
Honourable mentions: Hermione V Luna was interesting. Why wasn’t Dean Thomas made Gryffindor prefect instead? Harry and Ron don’t really care about school rules. I’ve gotten so used to Gary Oldman’s interpretation of Sirius that I forgot how young and impulsive he was.
WHAT I LIKED
1. The Politics:
This was such a jarring subject for me, especially because politics wasn’t a subject that I was fully aware of until I was much older. Reading about how the Ministry turns against Harry and Dumbledore, all the propaganda and censorship… Umbridge – was infuriating. It’s tough to read about, but also important. Hermione accurately deduces that ‘The ministry is interfering at Hogwarts’ – it really is an eye-opener to the different methods and tactics just one or two individuals can implement into a school to control and negatively influence others. Moreover, if the likes of someone as powerful as Dumbledore doesn’t have any say or control over it, then it really should have been something that I paid much more attention to.
2. Professor Minerva the MVP McGonagall!
Here are a few of many awesome moments from her:
‘Is it true that you shouted at Professor Umbridge?’
‘Yes,’ said Harry.
‘You called her a liar?’
‘You told her He Who Must Not Be Named is back?’
Professor McGonagall sat down behind her desk, frowning at Harry. Then she said, ‘Have a biscuit, Potter.’
‘How dare you!’ the figure shouted as she ran. ‘How dare you!…’
‘Leave him alone! Alone, I say!’ said Professor McGonagall’s voice through the darkness. ‘On what grounds are you attacking him? He has done nothing, nothing to warrant such –’ Hermione, Parvati and Lavender all screamed. The figures around the cabin had shot no fewer than four Stunners at Professor McGonagall.
…Harry witnessed Professor McGonagall walking right past Peeves, who was determinedly loosening a crystal chandelier, and could have sworn he heard her tell the poltergeist out of the corner of her mouth, ‘It unscrews the other way.’
She takes on Umbridge countless of times, is fiercely protective of her co-workers and students, she even takes on those wizards who are trying to attack Hagrid! Sometimes I wonder why she isn’t Headmistress of Hogwarts because she does a heck of a lot in this book.
3. The descriptive writing:
There are moments throughout where I think Rowling describes things beautifully. For me, some of her best writing is when she is describing the atmosphere and how the characters feel. For example, when Harry and Dudley are attacked by Dementors, i.e. showing instead of telling – you know there are Dementers around even before they appear. I also found the way she describes Harry going through the stages of grief incredibly genuine and so in-tune with the way Harry thinks and feels as a character.
Honourable mentions: Ginny Weasley, she’s one of my favourites in this book. Neville Longbottom, slowly but surely coming out of his shell.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
1. Harry and that attitude:
Although he had no control over some of the things that happen to him, I didn’t enjoy reading about how he dealt with them. I’m still not a fan of ALL CAPS HARRY, the hole he kept digging himself into with Umbridge was so frustrating and his reluctance to practice Occlumency even though literally everyone around him tells him to is infuriating. He should by now know the lengths Voldemort would go to, to get to him. Lastly, he’s also incredibly out of his depth during the Department of Mysteries chapters – how he thought he could rescue Sirius on his own is beyond me.
2. Sirius’ death:
Another reason why I neglected this book was Sirius’ death. Narratively it makes sense, but it’s such a gut-punch especially when you think about the fact he’s only been free (ish) for just under 3 years. A year of it is spent in a place that he hates and overall, he hasn’t had the chance or time to become a proper adult in the real world which I think is why he at times comes across as immature. In an earlier version of this book Rowling was going to kill off Arthur Weasley instead and I would have been just as heartbroken by that but for different reasons. Nonetheless, R.I.P Sirius.
3. Dumbledore’s path to being increasingly problematic!
*Sigh* I could write an entire essay about this man. Until this book I thought he was the be all, end all of noble characters but his behaviour towards Harry in this book is just baffling to me. He does explain why, but couldn’t he have just slipped a note under Harry’s dormitory door and explained why he was avoiding him? Harry is in on the Order of the Phoenix and knows that Snape is a part of it too etc. so surely one or two conversations with Harry about his plan couldn’t have hurt?
Honourable mentions: The Grawp storyline… meh. Young James Potter. The length of this book. The lack of Lupin.
FAVOURITE CHAPTER: ‘CHRISTMAS ON THE CLOSED WARD’
So many things get set in motion during this chapter. For starters, Harry and everyone else around him finally begin to realise just how complex his connection to Voldemort is. Harry and Dumbledore’s relationship is the weirdest it’s ever been the entire series, why won’t he meet Harry’s eyes? I’m still completely perplexed by how Dumbledore treats Harry this entire book. Before we get to one of my favourite sections, there is a moment in this chapter that pretty much becomes (I think) the most significant contributing factor to what becomes the most cataclysmic rescue mission i.e. ‘we plan, we get there and literally all hell breaks loose…’ It’s literally the smallest line, and it’s when Sirius yells at Kreacher to “Get out!”, you barely notice it, which is why I think it hurts so much when you realise how consequential such simple words can be, especially when it’s the unknowing cause of Sirius’ demise.
One of my favourite moments from this chapter is when we get to meet Neville’s parents. Everything about this encounter is so heart-breaking and really reminds you of the connection that Harry and Neville have – he could have been ‘the chosen one’ and if he were, would it have been Harry’s parents sitting in St. Mungo’s instead? It’s also a good moment of foreshadowing, in the sense that both Harry and Neville will both be in possession of the prophecy later in the book – a prophecy which could have had Neville’s name on it. Meeting Neville’s parents is also a nice touch, because they were once members of the Order of the Phoenix too. This part also reminds me of how empathetic Harry is towards others, despite his rage, reclusive and reckless behaviour, he understands people’s situations.
It was also (I don’t know if nice is the right word) but, interesting to see Lockhart again. As was, the first genuine connection Harry and Ginny have when she reminds him that she’s the only person he knows that’s also been possessed by Voldemort.
Despite my problems with some of the characters, I can’t deny the richness of Rowling’s writing, her storytelling has never been better and a few of my favourite quotes come from this book. When it comes to choosing which Harry Potter book I want to re-read, this book will still likely be at the bottom, but I can say that I have a new-found appreciation for this part of the series as it was and remains essential to the forwarding of Harry’s story and our understanding of flawed characters and them not being the black and white characters that we initially thought they were.